New York auction of Gandhi belongings called off

Thu Mar 5, 2009 3:13pm EST
 
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - An auction of freedom hero Mahatma Gandhi's personal belongings will not go ahead after the plan caused an uproar in India, where many view the items as part of their national heritage, the owner of the items said.

"I never intended for my actions to cause this controversy," James Otis told reporters in New York, announcing his decision to withdraw the items from sale. "I pray the outcome is positive and one that Gandhi would approve of."

Gandhi's trademark wire-rimmed glasses, a pair of worn leather sandals, a pocket watch and a metal bowl and plate were going to be sold in New York, but many people in India want them to be kept in a museum.

Some Indians said the sale went against the philosophy of a man who shunned material possessions and led an ascetic life.

"The issue here was not to put Mahatma Gandhi's legacy on the auction block," Ravi Batra, a lawyer for California-based collector Otis, told reporters.

The Indian government had announced earlier on Thursday that it planned to bid for the items at the auction, which had been expected to fetch some $300,000.

The Zenith pocket watch was given to Mahatma Gandhi by Indira Gandhi, who is not related to him and who went on to become India's prime minister. Mahatma Gandhi used the plate and bowl for his last meal.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, better known as Mahatma Gandhi, pioneered the philosophy of non-violent resistance to British rule in India. He was assassinated in 1948 in New Delhi by a Hindu radical.

(Reporting by Christine Kearney, writing by Michelle Nichols, editing by Eric Beech)

 
<p>Mahatma Gandhi&rsquo;s silver Zenith pocket watch is seen in a handout image from Antiquorum Antiques. REUTERS/Antiquorum/Handout</p>